Coalition can’t stop pension rises for ex-ministers

The Coalition says there is nothing that can be done to prevent former ministers getting pension hikes amid calls for the public sector pay-linked increases to be scrapped.

Coalition can’t stop pension rises for ex-ministers

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said his hands were tied on the increases, which will see members of the previous government, among others, see their six-figure pensions rise even more.

While Fianna Fáil figures yesterday said the hikes were unjustifiable, the Labour minister said little could be done as they were part of the Lansdowne Road pay deal.

Among those set to get increases over the next three years are former taoiseach Brian Cowen, who will see his pension rise from €134,000 to nearly €136,000 a year. His predecessor, Bertie Ahern, is expected to enjoy a similar increase.

Charlie McCreevy, the former finance minister, will enjoy a pension rise from €108,000 to almost €110,000.

The maximum increase will be €1,680. Rises will benefit those on smaller pensions more, officials said.

Under the Lansdowne Road deal, Mr Howlin agreed to partially restore cuts applied to public sector pensions in recent years.

Asked about the pension increases yesterday, Mr Howlin indicated to RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that they annoyed him.

However, he said the Supreme Court ruling on Abbeylara found that politicians could not issue adverse findings against individuals, much less impose sanctions or penalties on them.

Three sets of pay and pensions cuts had been introduced in the public sector, he said, much of it under emergency legislation introduced in the recession.

While ‘the emergency’ was not yet over, he said, it would be in the next couple of years and that’s why it was necessary to move to restore pay and pensions. Otherwise, the Government could face a legal challenge and this potentially would leave it with a financial hole of €2.2bn if the emergency legislation was undone before then.

Mr Howlin defended the pension rises, saying the vast bulk of those on high pay in the public sector were consultants, not politicians.

Mary Hanafin, a former minister who will benefit from the pension rises, said they should not be sanctioned. She told RTÉ: “The pensions are generous. I think we should be the very last people, the very last, to get any kind of an increase.

“I don’t think the country is right, or the economy is right yet, to be paying us or the very big pensioners extra money.”

Ms Hanafin, a Fianna Fáil councillor, said she was refusing to accept an allowance or expenses from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Council, worth around €30,000.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said most people would think it “unjustifiable” if former politicians were given pension rises.

He suggested it would be possible to tweak legislation and prevent ex-politicians getting the pension hikes.

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